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The Prehistoric Study Collection of the Cologne Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology documents the vast material culture of prehistory in Europe, as well as entailing significant finds from the African Continent and the Middle East. The timespan represented by the collection’s finds ranges from the emergence of early hominins through to antiquity. The breadth of our collection’s chronological and spatial scope is thus unrivalled amongst universities in North Rhine-Westphalia and offers students a unique opportunity for hands-on archaeological learning.

Established in 1907, the Prehistoric Study Collection has grown to become a valuable joint property of the City of Cologne and the University of Cologne. It is divided into two sections: One part comprises about 14,000 artefacts as a permanent loan from the Cologne Romano-Germanic Museum. The other part consists of objects that have come into possession of the Cologne Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology after excavations, inheritance and donations. Numerous replicas and casts supplement the collection.

If you are interested in our study collection, please contact:

Rebecca Gnau

Bernhard-Feilchenfeld-Str. 11, 6th floor
50969 Cologne

Opening hours: Wednesdays 13:00 to 17:00
Please schedule an appointment via E-mail or telephone.

Scientific responsibility: Dr. Karin Kindermann

The Prehistoric Study Collection at the Cologne Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology

Our collection provides a broad record of European Prehistory, also including some finds from the Middle East and Africa. From the beginnings of humanity through to Stone Age industries and up until the Bronze and Iron Ages the Prehistoric Study Collection represents a great spatio-temporal spectrum of human history. It comprises approximately 20,000 objects.

Following a museum-inspired concept, the Prehistoric Study Collection comprises excavated originals supplemented by numerous replicas and casts. The collection contains, for instance, selected original finds from famous archaeological sites, such as from Heinrich Schliemann’s excavations in Troy, as well as replicas of Bronze Age Weaponry from Mycenae in authentic reproductions form the early 20th century.

Besides the portrayal of the development of material culture over time, the study collection also aims to display the history of human evolution through exhibiting skeletal remains, as well as casts.

The significance of the Prehistory Study Collection amongst museums in North Rhine-Westphalia

The scope of our collection is designed to go beyond the mere representation of regional prehistory and early history, such as the exhibitions at the Cologne Romano-Germanic Museum, the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn or the Archaeological Museum of Westphalia in Herne, but rather takes a human-history standpoint.

Whilst the Neanderthal Museum adopts a multi-medial approach to display human history; with the aid of replicas and reconstructions, the Prehistoric Study Collection exhibits (mainly original) archeological objects. Our collection thus carries a very singular character amongst institutions and exhibitions in North Rhine-Westphalia and establishes a space for further exchange. Additionally, Cologne students are offered the chance to refine their practical skills and practice working with and handling artefacts using the collection´s objects.

City and university – history and sponsorship of the Prehistoric Study Collection

The Prehistoric Study Collection is the result of cooperation between the City of Cologne and the University of Cologne. 14,000 inventory numbers from the collection belong to the City of Cologne and have been on permanent loan to the Institute for Prehistoric Archaeology since 1968. These are the remains of the collection of the former Cologne Museum for Prehistory and Early History, which was founded in 1907 and located in the Bayenturm in Cologne. The museum itself has been destroyed by bombings in 1943 during the Second World War.

When the Romano-Germanic Museum was established, the finds from the destroyed Museum of Prehistory and Early History were split up between the University and the RGM. Objects from the old museum excavated in the area surrounding Cologne are exhibited in the Romano-Germanic Museum.

The municipal part of the Prehistoric Collection

Those objects, however, that have no reference to the region of Cologne were entrusted to the university. A large part of these objects were acquired through purchases financed by generous donations from citizens of Cologne.

The collection of the French Palaeolithic, that is like a "who is who" of famous archaeological sites, goes back to a donation of the Geheimer Kommerzienrat Emil von Rath. Hardly anyone would expect such an abundant collection in Cologne. The purchase of many replicas and casts was also financed by donations. Such as a (now rare) cast of the Piltdown skull, this was later exposed as a forgery and became the subject of an academic criminal history.

Generous donors have added greatly to the Prehistory Collection in the past. One of whom is none other than the prominent Geographer Georg Schweinfurth, who donated several finds from Thebes in Egypt to the collection.

The university part of the Prehistoric Collection

The University of Cologne owns a smaller part of the objects in its possession, most of them acquired in the 1960s. Here we have entire archaeological inventories which have been excavated completely and are of great academic significance. In particular, the excavation finds from Jabrud in Syria are of world rank and regularly attract international experts to Cologne. Jabrud is one of the most important Lower and Middle Palaeolithic stratigraphic sequences of the Middle East and provides insight into the cultural development of a period of 150,000 years. Up until 2003, the Jabrud finds had been on display in the Museum Monrepos in Neuwied, after which they had been brought back to Cologne.

The university’s share of the collection has significantly expanded through various authentically reproduced replicas, particularly through experimental reconstruction of stone knapping methods. In addition, the collection contains rock samples from numerous raw material sources used by prehistoric people. These rock samples serve as comparative pieces for determining the specific provenance of prehistoric flint artefacts. Both replicas and rock samples have been donated by members of the Prehistoric Institute and external colleagues in the past. Some of these replicas are of great value for research.